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Travelling across the world to make a difference

Alisha Knox and Charlotte Eastick

When two University of Sunderland students were looking for a placement this spring, they decided to go a little further afield – taking the 7,000 mile journey from Sunderland to Tanzania.

Charlotte Eastick and Alisha Knox, both 23, are in the second year of their BSc (Hons) Occupational Therapy degree at the University. They travelled on the 18th of May and will spend six weeks in Dar es Salaam in Tanzania putting their studies into practice – and encountering situations that working in the NHS could never prepare them for.

“While we’re in Dar es Salaam I’ll be working in a local hospital and outpatient clinics that provides occupational therapy services following procedures such as a post-amputation,” says Charlotte, from Sunderland. “I will be dealing with conditions that I wouldn’t generally deal with in the UK, such as leprosy and clubfoot.”

“It will be a unique learning experience we could not get here in the UK,” agrees Alisha, from Hartlepool. “It will develop our patient-centred communication skills and help us form positive professional relationships with patients.

“We’ve also been trying to learn the local language, and while we’re in Tanzania we’ll have two Swahili lessons a week, which should help us connect better with patients and colleagues there.”

While dealing with unfamiliar medical conditions while learning Swahili may seem a daunting prospect to most people, it is typical of Charlotte and Alisha that they have both taken the challenge in their stride. They first heard about the opportunity to travel to Tanzania through the company Work the World, which offers placements abroad for student doctors, nurses, midwives and other allied health professions. They seized on the chance to take up this once in a lifetime opportunity, but then faced a further barrier to their ambition – they both had to raise over £5,000 each to fund the trip.

“As well as studying for our degree we really had to work hard to fundraise towards our trip,” says Charlotte. “We hosted a bake sale, filled in football cards, sold crochet gift sets and sold hampers. We also set up a GoFundMe page, where people very generously pledged over £910.” 

“We have made such a good team,” says Alisha. “As well as the support of our friends and family and all our fundraising we have been lucky enough to receive grants from the University’s Futures Fund to cover the costs of our flights, and the Rotary Club of Sunderland has also donated money to us towards our trip costs. We were also awarded the Barbara Tyldesley award from the Royal College of Occupational Therapists. We are so grateful.”

Nina Bedding, Senior Lecturer in Occupational Therapy at the University of Sunderland, says: "When Charlotte and Alisha expressed an interest in an overseas placement I was absolutely delighted. Working with Work the World they will travel to experience a diverse placement in Tanzania. I am expecting them to work with patients who have unfamiliar conditions and witness some inventive practice and techniques.

“They will be immersed in a unique culture that we cannot provide replicate here – it really will be an amazing experience. I am really excited to follow their journey."

Charlotte and Alisha are now preparing for departure to Tanzania in May where they spend six weeks working with patients.

“I know it’s going to be difficult being away from my support network at home especially since I’m such a home body,” says Alisha. “Six weeks isn’t that long, but I have never been away from home for that amount of time.”

“I am slightly worried about being away from home and my friends and family for six weeks, but this was too good of an opportunity not to miss!” says Charlotte. “I am particularly looking forward to meeting fellow occupational therapists in Dar es Salaam.

“I have also been able to book an add-on safari experience which I am so excited for! We will be spending the weekend in Mikumi National Park where will have the chance to see lions, leopards, giraffes, elephants and so much more.”

The University of Sunderland’s Futures Fund was established to support students to develop their careers and aspirations. Students can apply for funding of up to £2,500. For more information, visit 

You can follow their travel and updates on their Facebook page. 

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